56 answers

How Do You Potty Train a 3 Year Old?

Well I am having trouble with my 3 year old son. We have been trying to potty train him. He refuses to wear underwear and to use the toilet. I have tried everything from putting cheerios in his training potty, to food coloring in the big toilet so when he flushes it he can see the colors. my son is very intelligent he speaks fluently and knows when he has to go to the bathroom. He will tell us mom I have to pee and then we will try and get him to sit on the toilet and he will just laugh at us and say I dont want to use it. He also knows when he has to poop. I have tried everything. I have even offered treats. Help I need some more ideas on how to get him potty trained. He will use the toilet when he wants to. my son is very stubburn.

1 mom found this helpful

What can I do next?

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I tried the treats too, and that didn't work. I went to the $1 store and bought lots of little gifts and wrapped them up in brightly colored paper, put them in a large basket and set it in the bathroom so he could see it...but not get to it. I continually reinforced that if he went on the potty he would get to choose a gift. I did this for 3 days where he would get to pick one out each time he went. After the 3rd day, we started a "potty chart" with his favorite stickers. If he went the entire day going on the potty, he got to choose a gift. After 5 days of this, the gifts were gone but we continued the potty chart for about 2 weeks. If he went the entire week going on the potty, he got to do something special (his choice was going to McD's playland and the second time was Chucky Cheese). After that, I would say he was completely trained and has only had one accident since (he's now 5). What kid doesn't like presents...worked for him! Good luck!

How do I potty train a 3 year old? I wait until they are 3 1/2 and they do it on their own :o)
Seriously, my daughter and then my son both did it all by themselves at 3 1/2, after spending a year stressing us all out because of my insistance on trying.
They'll do it when they are ready, just mention it every now and then. All of the sudden BAM no more diapers, just like that.
So much less stressful, lol.
Mom to 4 and soon one more through another adoption.


I am afraid you will have to wait until HE is ready. The best thing to do is back off and give him a little time. Once it stops being a power struggle, introduce the potty to him again. He will do it in his own time when he gets tired of the diapers.

L. :)

More Answers

I agree with Beth on making your son responsible for the clean up. Most children like to make a mess but the clean up isn't so much fun. I'm a mother of four children of which three were all potty trained before they turned one. I was bed-ridden with my second child and missed the opportunity to start my first son early with his potty training. If nothing else works put him in underwear with plastic pants, children usually do not like the feel of it without the absorbtion of a diaper and tends to help make them want to use the potty. You said you were about to get married, congrats, do the men in your family help with potty training? My son really got the idea in his head to go on the potty from his dad, grandpa, and uncle. Standing up and going potty like a big boy really made him heppy. So happy in fact that is how my daughter first decided to go. SHe said she had to go potty and ran to the bathroom for the first time. Standing proudly on the toilet seat she peed down her legs into the pot so she could pee like a big boy. After I explained she wasn't a boy with the same equipment she started going on it like the rest of us girls. Keep trying it will happen. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

With my first child, I bought a large floor puzzle and every time he went on the potty, he got to add another piece to the puzzle. With my daughter, the thing that got things started in motion was the "Elmo Potty Time" DVD. I would use Elmo as an example and say, "Elmo goes potty and he wants you to also!" I was surprised that actually got her to the point that she wanted to try. So I planned several days to stay home, knowing that it will take two days of concerted effort (and some mess) to accomplish the task. I set up the potty chair in the room we were in most during the day and dressed her in something easy for her to pull down herself. Then I took away the safety net of the diaper and/or pull-up. Kids do not like the feeling of peeing on themselves and it's my experience that if they do it one or two times they will feel the urgency of getting to the potty. Be prepared for lots of false alarms, that is all a part of the first week. But it is worth all the effort!

1 mom found this helpful

Hi A.,
I hope I can help. Years and years ago when I was in the midst of parenting I had a three year old boy, the brightest of my four children, who refused to be toilet trained. Like you I had tried everything. My mother found a hint in a magazine which I used and it was the first thing to work.
I filled a big glass bowl with brightly colored little presents, some silly things like a stick of gum, some bigger like a tiny toy car. When it was all filled and looked enticing I walked by this little boy making sure he could get a good look, I then put it up high where he couldn't reach it and I didn't say a word about it.
He, of course, asked what it was and with a very calm, even voice I told him if he ever used the potty (and it was his entirely his choice) he could have a gift. I didn't say another word about it. I think he was trained within four days. And, no, he didn't continue expecting treats.
Whatever happens, he will train himself when it becomes important to him. With my son I felt it was a question of control so I gave it to him.

1 mom found this helpful

He sounds beyond old enough to be trained he's playing games.

I would start making him 100% accountable and responsible for his potty time. If he has a accident have him remove the clothing, put in laundry room or bucket, wipe up messes, clean himself up and put new clothing on. After all that work by himself with little help from you he will learn it's alot easier to just use the potty. When he does start to use the potty reward him but donot bribe him. Act happy and proud but with him I wouldn't over do the happiness he may want to not go again. If he has a accident act like you could care less and tell him exactly what he must now do to clean up. Get a little tough..

1 mom found this helpful

A., we had the same situation with our son. Very smart little boy:)
Our neighbor said she made a big deal about throwing away all leftover diapers/pullups, etc. Let him throw them away. Talk to him, tell him he is smart enough and old enough as well as brave enough to throw them away himself. This work for our son! I did end up sitting in the bathroom for an hour for the first poop though with him. Sitting to poop and standing to poop are very different things to a 3yr old! Let him know that you know it is different, and that change is hard, but he is brave and that he can do it...

My son is awake ....Good luck!!

Hello. I am sorry that you are having problems. I feel just as frustrated as you because my 3 year old son will tinkle in the potty but will not poop. He knows when he has to go but will wait until his pull-up or underware is full and then say that he stinks or has poopy undercloths. I spoke with his Dr. and she gave me some interesting advise. She stated that I should put him in a pull-up, cut a small hole in the bottom, let him get used to how it feels to sit on the potty and use it when the pull-up is on. As the days/weeks go on, continue to cut the hole larger until eventually it is only the rim of the pull-up and hopefully that will work. She stated that sometimes even if they're used to sitting on the potty they are afraid of the poop process. So by gradually cutting the hole larger (as you see progress) will help their comfort levels. I hope I was some help. My son just began this process. He will sit with the hole on the pot. But I am looking for warning signs of when he has to go so that we can get him there sooner. I noticed that 20 minutes after he drinks milk he'll have a bm. So I will give him milk every 2-3 hrs or so. Cut a hole in his pull-up and 20 minutes later sit him on the pot. He gets excited. But still not willing to go on his own yet. Umm. his father bought another potty seat. And when he goes for a bm he will take our son and they will sit on the potty together. My fiance will read magazines and books and so will our son until they're done. Try that too with the oher experiment. I will give YOU some potty peace too.

Tell him that he is now big and will no longer be wearing diapers, throw or hide the diapers. If he refuses underware put pants on him without them, this will show you mean business- "three" is very smart and understands all the drama he is creating by simply refusing- three year old's want to be in control, make him a sticker chart, give him a sticker for going if you want tell him 5 stickers earns a ___________.
Don't compromise or give choices, other areas in his life he needs that, but NOT this particular area- Do not talk about potty training in front of him, or talk that much about it at all. The less you care, the less drama he will feel he is creating- Hope this works- Mother of 3 boys 17,16 and 7.

When you child gets to 3+, that is when potty training turns into a power struggle. At his age, he's totally big enough to use the toilet, and there is no reason for him not to. Just reading oyur post he is playing you, he's gaining the power. He knows he's in control because you will let him be by agreeing to keep him in diapers if he doesn't want to use the toilet. Don't give him a choice you are the parent.

I agree 100% with Beth, put him in underwear, and when he has an accident, make HIM take the wets off, make HIM wipe up the floor (you go back ovr it later of course) and make HIM get clean clothes to put on, and make HIM wash himself up. AT his age, it won't take him long to realize that its much easier to just use the toilet than to take 15 minutes out of play time to clean up every time he pees. Don't give up. Mark it on the calendar with red ink, say 'ok on MOnday we will wear underwear all the time, no more diapers' and stick to it. Don't go back and forth, go to underwear and thats it.

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